It has been an interesting couple of years for Chris Carraba. The former Further Seems Forever singer did what so many other musicians fail to do. He turned his side project into the full-time job. Dashboard Confessional started out as a part-time gig in between rock shows. He still looks like a hard rocker with his tattoos, but he became the voice of indie rock last year with his ultra-sensitive lyrics that don’t amaze anyone by being cryptic. Instead, Carraba leaves it all out there on his sleeve in all its dramatic glory, just like many of the tattoos on his arms. And it caught on. As many people heard on the Unplugged CD, fans not only know every word, but they will do what they can to sing louder than Chris whenever possible.
Despite many EP’s and the Unplugged live album, “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar” is really the second full-length album for Dashboard. I don’t really know what I am expecting with this one, because I think if it is just as excruciatingly emotional as the last album, it might be hard to take. I will admit that I loved the first album, but I was truly unable to listen to it that often because it is so depressing. I remember letting someone borrow it once at work, and she said to me, “If I ever want to cry at work, I will come back and borrow this CD.”
With that in mind, I started listening to the new record from Dashboard Confessional. The first song is a rock version of “Hands Down” which first showed up on the “So Impossible” EP in an acoustic format. The main phrase that sticks out from that song is “My hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me. So won’t you kill me, so I die happy.” To be honest, I am hoping that this is kind of a carry-over song. I would hate to think that after a year full of success that Carraba would be just as distraught as he appeared on his previous album’s material. I mean, I know success and money can’t buy happiness, but at the same time, something good must have happened to him in the past year as he rose out of musical obscurity to play an Unplugged session for MTV.
I think Carraba has changed enough to gain new fans, but stayed the same enough to keep the original fans. While a lot of the material on “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar” is definitely about girls, my first impression is that it is a little more dynamic and playful. Carraba takes full advantage of the band he has playing with him. Mike Marsh from the band The Agency plays drums on the album and really helps solidify many of the songs into true rock songs instead of just converted acoustic songs. A prime example would be “Bend and Not Break.” This song is a full-out rock song with a really poppy two-part chorus. “Won’t you hold me now, I will not bend I will not break.” I can already hear the kids singing along at the top of their EMO voices.
If you really miss the all-acoustic Dashboard of yesteryear, there are a few songs that might appease your tastes, like “Ghost of a Good Thing” and “Carry this Picture.” But, I think the strength of this album is its commitment to rocking a little more than previously. “Hands Down” starts it off at a quick pace, “Bend Not Break,” “Hey Girl,” and “If You Can’t Leave it Be” keep it going for the whole album. These are a welcome relief in my eyes, but being the sensitive-type, they are not my favorites. My favorite songs on this album are “Ghost of a Good Thing,” with it’s falsetto chorus, the aforementioned “Bend not Break,” and the emotional album closer, “Several Ways to Die Trying.”